Founded in 1863, the paper was best known for the conservative political opinions of its late publisher, William Loeb, and his wife, Elizabeth Scripps "Nackey" Loeb. Famously, the paper helped to derail the candidacy in 1972 of U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination. Loeb criticized Muskie's wife, Jane, in editorials. When he defended her in a press conference, there was a measured negative effect on voter perceptions of Muskie within New Hampshire. (See also: Canuck letter.)
Over the decades, the Loebs gained considerable influence and helped shape New Hampshire's political landscape. In 2000, after Nackey's death on January 8, Joseph McQuaid, the son and nephew of the founders of the New Hampshire Sunday News, Bernard J. and Elias McQuaid, took over as publisher.
Like many newspapers, the Union Leader has a complex history involving mergers and buyouts.
The weekly Union became the Manchester Daily Union on March 31, 1863. The afternoon Union became a morning Daily Union (dropping the "Manchester"). Although the Union began as a Democratic paper, by the early 1910s it had been purchased by Londonderry politician Rosecrans Pillsbury, a Republican.
In October 1912, the competing Manchester Leader was founded by Frank Knox and financed by then-Governor Robert P. Bass, a member of the Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party who was attempting to promote the Progressive cause in New Hampshire. The newspaper was so successful that Knox bought out the Union, and the two newspapers merged under the banner of the Union-Leader Corporation July 1913. Owing to Pillsbury's role in the company, both papers espoused a moderate Republican, pro-business stance.
Following Knox's death in 1944, William Loeb purchased the company, merging the Union and Leader into a single morning paper, the Manchester Union-Leader, in 1948. Under Loeb's watch, the Union-Leader moved sharply to the right. He often placed editorials on the front page and supported highly conservative candidates for public office. He dropped Manchester from the paper's masthead in the mid-1970s to emphasize the fact that it is the only statewide newspaper in New Hampshire.
On April 4, 2005; it changed its name to the New Hampshire Union Leader to reflect its statewide reach. However, it is still called the Manchester Union Leader by some residents due to its historical legacy.
The New Hampshire Sunday News was created in 1948 and later, after Loeb's attempts to start a Sunday edition of the Union-Leader failed, was purchased by the Union-Leader Corporation. The Union Leader still publishes the Sunday News as its Sunday edition.
Two notable early employees of the New Hampshire Sunday News were Ralph M. Blagden, the first managing editor, and an even more prominent journalist he mentored, Benjamin C. Bradlee. Bradlee was then a reporter but went on to be the executive editor of The Washington Post for nearly 30 years and was its vice president until his death in 2014.
(Use the scrollbar at the bottom to view more recent mergers and events which are to the right.)
|The Amoskeag Representative founded October 18, 1839, by John Caldwell||→||January 22, 1841, name change||→||Manchester Representative||→|
|December 2, 1842, merge||→||Manchester Democrat||→||August 4, 1848, name change||→||The Democrat||→||1857 merge||→||The Democrat and American|
|New Hampshire Democratic Party adopts a resolution declaring that The Democrat no longer represents its views and that a new paper should be established; editor William H. Gilmore leaves The Democrat to found the Union Democrat, January 1, 1851.|
|The Manchester Democrat founded April 26, 1842, by William H. Kimball and Joseph Kidder||→|
|Union Democrat founded January 31, 1851, by William H. Gilmore & Company.||→||Known under various names and with a variety of associated papers: Manchester Union Democrat, Weekly Union, Daily Union (though there may have been at least one independent paper of this name), Manchester Daily Union, Monthly Literary Union, Manchester Union.||→|
In 1913 ownership was unified under the Union-Leader Publishing Company but the papers remained separate.
|William Loeb purchase and 1948 merge||→||Manchester Union Leader accompanied by the Manchester Sunday News for several decades.||→||Union Leader|
|Manchester Leader founded October 1912 by Colonel Frank Knox and John A. Muehling.||→|
In 1948 Loeb acquired the New Hampshire Sunday News but continued to publish it separately.
|New Hampshire Sunday News founded 1947 by Bernard J. McQuaid and Elias McQuaid.||→||→||New Hampshire Sunday News|
Throughout their existence, the Union Leader and its predecessors have been closely involved in state politics and during the quadrennial United States presidential election, national politics. Ever since the Loebs bought the paper, its orientation has been unyieldingly conservative (though the paper was already a reliable supporter of the GOP long before the Loebs bought it), a tradition that continued after McQuaid took over the paper. The owner-publishers have invariably made their opinions known in print, which has frequently prompted harsh criticism and accusations that the paper is used for not-entirely-journalistic purposes.
|“||The Manchester Union Leader, practitioner of a style of knife-and-kill journalism that went out of fashion half a century ago in the rest of the country, is the primary daily paper of 40 percent of New Hampshire's population...||”|
|— Theodore Harold White, The Making of the President, 1972|
Author Hunter S. Thompson referred to the Union Leader as "America's worst newspaper", claiming Sam Yorty would do well in the 1972 New Hampshire primary "due to his freakish alliance with the neo-Nazi publisher of New Hampshire's only big newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader".
In 2016, the Union Leader endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president—the first time in 100 years that it had not endorsed a Republican. In a signed editorial, McQuaid denounced Donald Trump as "a liar, a bully, a buffoon."
In a message printed in the paper in early 2009, publisher Joseph McQuaid announced that owing to financial difficulties affecting the entire newspaper industry, the Saturday edition of the paper would no longer be distributed outside of the Greater Manchester area and that Saturday content would be moved to a combined Friday/Saturday edition.
In 2015, the paper's flagship building at 100 William Loeb Drive was subdivided into parcels and offered for lease. In 2017, the Union Leader building was sold to investor Peter Levine for $3.8 million after being on the market for about four years. The newspaper leased back space to remain in the building at 100 William Loeb Drive. Three other tenants, two of them charter schools and a distributor, also were occupying space in the building at the time of the sale.
NewHampshire.com is owned by the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper. The website is an information portal for arts and entertainment, community news, recreation and local business information for the state of New Hampshire. NewHampshire.com was created in 1999. It has since been a consistent resource to the community for arts, entertainment, nightlife, recreation and information about the state of New Hampshire. The website also features a free Weekend "Top 10" Planner email newsletter that is delivered on Thursdays to thousands of subscribers. It features events from the NH365.org calendar, a calendar that is utilized by many media sites across the states. In addition, NewHampshire.com features articles from the newspaper's "NH Weekend", giving readers many ways to find information about what is happening over the weekend, by the season and throughout the year.